Gambling: Addicted to the game

Abstract

Jessica Yakeley and Richard Taylor, both psychiatrists in NHS practice and one (JY) a psychoanalyst, bring to the subject of gambling a wealth of clinical experience that informs their clinical examples; they bring a broad and inclusive perspective on the cultural aspects of gambling and the range of psychological models of gambling, as well as offering a depth of psychoanalytic understanding of this phenomenon. They are wary of current diagnostic practice that might artificially dichotomize casual and problematic gamblers, arguing that gambling occurs on a spectrum from everyday to pathological behaviour. For Yakeley and Taylor, as for Freud, gambling is a symptom, and understanding needs to go beyond mere description of the behaviours and accompanying cognitions, to consider the psychodynamic factors that drive the behaviour. They note that Von Hattinberg's (1914) recognition of the masochism inherent in gambling pre-dates Freud's (1928b) analysis of gambling. The idea that the gambler does not play to win but to lose challenges the popular notion of the gambler as someone hoping to make a fortune. In a very interesting section they describe the object relationship that can prevail in the mind of the gambler, who feels compelled to provoke, seduce, defy, or submit to "Chance", Lady Luck", or "Fate", representatives of omnipotent parental objects. Is gambling an addiction? They conclude that, psychologically, the behaviour has much in common with addictions, but that gambling is "more" than addiction; in addition to the addictive qualities, gambling is characterized by elements of sexualized and masochistic excitement, though not yet reaching criteria for a perversion. They stress that the "game" to which a person is addicted is not playful but "a sadomasochistic marriage" that excludes real people and becomes "a desperate conflict between life and death". Yakeley and Taylor note the waning interest in psychoanalytic perspectives on gambling since Greenson's (1947) and Bergler's (1957) important contributions. This chapter demonstrates how much this perspective has to offer to an understanding of gambling, including electronic and online forms of gambling, in the twenty-first century. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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